Avoiding The Ethanol Blues

Print Friendly

Ethanol-laced “gas” (10 percent ethanol today, 15 percent soon) isn’t all bad.corn 1

Just mostly bad.

It reduces fuel economy noticeably (because there’s less energy in a gallon of 90 percent gas plus 10 percent ethanol than there is in a gallon of 100 percent gas).

It makes food – especially meat – more expensive (because not-far-from-half the corn crop is currently diverted to ethanol production, not livestock feed).

It enriches politically powerful agribusiness cartels – not “the American farmer” (not that the American farmer has any more right than an agribusiness cartel to force others to buy his product).

It can also cause problems in older (and especially occasional use) vehicles and power equipment not originally designed to withstand high alcohol-content fuels.

The main worries are: the alcohol eating away at rubber and plastic parts not made to deal with alcohol-rich fuels – and corrosion (from water accumulation courtesy of the alcohol in the fuel) eating away at the insides of metal parts such as metal gas tanks and fuel lines. Both of these worries are more likely to become actualities if the vehicle – car, bike, lawn mower – is left unused for extended periods of time, in particular because of the increased likelihood of moisture accumulation within the fuel system and also because E10 (that’s what “gas” is nowadays) doesn’t have as long a shelf-life as 100 percent gas. It goes bad sooner – leaving you with problems.

Regular use is the first thing you can do to avoid the ethanol blues. Run whatever it is for at least half an hour at least once a month. This will keep fresh fuel (or at least, fresher fuel)  in the carburetor – which will mean less moisture in the carburetor. If it’s an old bike, turn the fuel tap to off just before you shut down the engine and let it run until the carbs are empty. Do the same with lawnmowers and so on that also have on-off fuel taps (and if yours doesn’t have an on-off fuel tap, consider installing one). This helps avoid problems associated with gummed-up carburetors caused by the fuel sitting in the bowls dissolving rubber seals and so on – and corrosion caused by water in the fuel.

Also try to top off the tank when you’re done. A full tank is less prone to moisture forming inside from condensation/heat cycling – and the new fuel will help freshen up the old fuel that’s still in the tank.marine

And before you top off, add some fuel stabilizer, such as Stab-Bil. Most people in the know know about the reddish-colored “normal” Sta-Bil, which has been around for years and which is sold almost everywhere, including most auto parts places. But Sta-Bil also sells a bluish-green tinted Marine Formula stabilizer (see here) designed for dealing with the “moisture laden environments” associated with ethanol-laced fuel. It is more concentrated and has double the amount of corrosion inhibitor – and four times the amount of fuel system cleaner – than “standard” (red) Sta-Bil. It is specifically formulated to prevent phase separation – water settling out and forming a layer on the bottom of the fuel tank.

For occasional-use stuff – such as classic vehicles and outdoor power equipment – this is the stuff.

If you know you’re not going to be able to run whatever it is for six months or more, it’s probably a good idea to store it dry – with no fuel in the system. Even though Sta-Bil and other fuel stabilizer claim that their products can prevent fuel from degrading (and your machine from being gunked up as a result) for as long as a year when properly dosed, draining the tank/carbs/lines is arguably one of those better-safe-than-sorry things. There’s no harm done by doing it – and you may avoid a great deal of harm by doing it. Or at least, a lot of hassle if you end up having to tear apart/rebuild a gunked-up fuel system after long-term storage. Use an aerosol fogger to protect the interior of  emptied fuel tanks (such as motorcycle/power equipment fuel tanks).

A more permanent solution is to coat/seal the tank. There are several products available, including Kreem and POR-15 both of which I’ve used myself and can personally vouch for.  These products prevent ethanol-related degradation/rusting of metal tanks by  laying down an impermeable barrier between the metal and the fuel.  Newer vehicles (and equipment) typically have fuel tanks made out of composite plastics made to withstand ethanol – and which can’t rust. But older metal tanks are very vulnerable to rusting, even if fresh (and treated) fuel is used. Sealing them will solves that potential problem effectively forever – for the life of the tank, anyhow.kreem

You may also want to think about replacing original (and so, pre-ethanol) rubber fuel lines with modern rubber lines designed to withstand ethanol-laced “gas.” Ditto the hard steel lines in, for example, older cars. Like metal fuel tanks, they are very susceptible to rusting from the inside out. Replacing them with stainless steel will eliminate that possibility.

Oh, I almost forgot about ethanol’s good points…

In the interest of fairness, these must be mentioned:

Ethanol has goosed the octane rating of fuel – which in turn has allowed the car companies to build mass-market engines with high-compression engines, which are both more powerful as well as more efficient.

I’d still rather have real gas – and fewer problems.

Throw it in the Woods?

Share Button

eric

Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  116 comments for “Avoiding The Ethanol Blues

  1. kmccune
    September 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Government necessary? dont think so(sob,gasp,who’ll build roads and all the other things the private sector could do much better,bah humbug)If it wasnt for the creeping liberals and dogooder control freaks we probaly wouldnt need roads by now(water and the air doesnt require repaving-crazy you say?those funny looking things that people see and get pictures of in the air belong to somebody. Of course the govt knows nothing about that,petroleum got too convenient and hard to control,now they are going to try to starve us out,feeding our infernal machines-Kevin (CLOVER IS DEER FOOD)

  2. September 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Corn ethanol mandate does more harm than good. 40% of the corn crop now goes to ethanol, according to this Tues Sept 23rd article

    If you give credence to supply and demand curves, the decrease in supply will result in higher prices for corn sold as food, and lower quantity of corn sold as food.

    Other consideration is elasticity of demand. people need food, but they are able to find substitutes to some degree. To the degree this occurs, they’ll further lower quantity of corn demanded, and lower the price paid overall

    It’s some kind of energy war dick measuring contest, where all the dicks have cancer. Muslims leave their oil in the ground, and keep advanced technology away from their oil. The US says, I’ll see your insanity, and raise you one. I’m going to burn all my excess food as oil, and we’ll see if you want to either produce more oil, or let your people starve. Meanwhile all the places with inadequate fuel and food, all start dying earlier, and starving, because of yet another cold war type of battle, this time over food and fuel.

    Around 9 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases every year. Nothing surprising here, many governments are always directly or indirectly murdering people.

    • methylamine
      September 24, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Easily the best comment on this thread, Tor!

      That really puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? It’s not some abstract issue we’re pontificating….people fucking die because of stupid, malicious, evil “policy”.

      • Jason Flinders
        September 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

        Whenever I have some chucklehead telling me about the “necessity” of the State, I’ll ask him if the stacks of bloody corpses left strewn about by this “necessary” institution bothers him or not. A blank, uncomprehending stare is the general answer. Or if anything else, possibly a muttered, “well, nothing is perfect.” (Talk about an understatement!)

        People would not tolerate for a moment the deadly shenanigans regularly engaged in by governments from any private organization. Yet because government “builds roads” or “picks up the garbage” or provides some other service, somehow all the murder, torture, theft, and extortion engaged in on a regular basis and on a massive scale are OK. It’s mind-boggling.

        Condemn millions to starve via corrupt and ill-considered policies? All in a day’s work.

        • methylamine
          September 24, 2014 at 10:54 pm

          B-b-b-b-but JASON, what about our SAAAAAAAFETY??

          And if it weren’t for government, who’d stomp around the world pissing people off enough to want to go to war…which the government protects us from, after they’re done protecting us from terrorism?

          :) $lt;/sarcasm$gt;

          On a lighter note: have you guys seen the Lego movie? I know, a kids’ movie, etc.

          But it’s freaking brilliant; it’s libertarian indoctrination for kids. There are dozens of very clever, sneaky, and often open digs at government, police, the police state, propaganda, surveillance…

          A really fun movie. I’ve seen it probably a dozen times because both my kids love it. Every time I catch something new. It’s sophisticated enough to poke fun at “beltwaytarians” too–you know, the smug self-proclaimed libertine “intellectuals” who pretend to own libertarianism.

  3. Me2
    September 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Meth – “You’re rapidly drifting now from the realm of mistaken, past obtuse, to frankly disingenuous.”

    Several times people have explained in detail how Mark has no clue about the basic science involved yet he still can’t comprehend or actually defend his assertions with anything but more repeated self referential assertions. I think ‘stupid’ is valid here. Clovarian type stupid.

  4. September 24, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Consumer Reports: The Great Ethanol Debate (2011)

    Ethanol looks promising to government scientists because it can be produced in large quantities, and requires fewer technological breakthroughs and less infrastructure development than is needed to support electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.

    University scientists question ethanol’s viability as a fuel source for three reasons:

    1 It’s unethical to produce fuel from a food crop, because doing so drives up food prices. Most ethanol in the United States is made from corn.

    2 Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, and it takes a lot of energy to produce.

    3 Studies haven’t yielded consensus. But indicate a significant concern. Producing ethanol may—or may not—increase emissions of carbon-dioxide, a gas linked to global warming.

    Putting E85 to the test
    To better judge ethanol’s strengths and weaknesses, we decided to buy a flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) and put E85 to the test. E85 is an ethanol mixture promoted as an alternative to gasoline.

    We put our 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV through our full series of fuel-economy and acceleration tests while running on each fuel. When running on E85 there was no significant change in acceleration. Fuel economy, however, dropped across the board. In highway driving, gas mileage decreased from 21 to 15 mpg; in city driving, it dropped from 9 to 7 mpg. You could expect a similar decrease in gas mileage in any current FFV.

    We also took our Tahoe to a state-certified emissions-test facility and found a significant decrease in smog-forming oxides of nitrogen when using E85. However, ethanol emits acetaldehyde, which the EPA lists as a probable carcinogen and something that standard emissions-testing equipment is not designed to measure. “Acetaldehyde is bad,” says James Cannon, president of Energy Futures, an alternative-transportation publication, “but not nearly as bad as some of the emissions from gasoline.”

    Filling up our Tahoe with E85, was no easy task. We found it’s especially difficult to get E85 in New England, near our test track. After trying all the local channels, we ended up having to mix it ourselves.

    So how did we get to the point where the government is subsidizing a fuel that gets worse fuel economy and is difficult to buy? The ethanol story is both complex and controversial.

    What is ethanol, and how is it used?
    Ethanol is a form of alcohol (think whiskey) that is combustible and can power engines easily. In the United States, it is made in the primarily from corn, but also from a small amount of sugarcane in Louisiana. New types of biorefineries are also being built to create ethanol from non-food material such as wood chips, switch grass and even municipal waste, although these technologies are not yet yielding fuel on a large scale. Overseas, ethanol is more often produced from sugar and wood chips.

    The idea of running cars on ethanol is not new. Henry Ford designed the first Model T to run on ethanol so that farmers could produce their own fuel.

    Ethanol alcohol for cars is denatured, blended with about 1 percent gasoline to make it non-potable.

    In the Unites States, ethanol is sold primarily in two forms. As gasoline blended with ethanol in a 10/90 ethanol/gasoline mixture called E10. And as E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) for use in flex-fuel vehicles. In E85, gasoline is used to provide enough starting power for cars in cold weather.

    Ethanol advocates have been promoting intermediate blends dispensed with special “blender pumps.” Auto engineers say these intermediate blends can still be used only in FFVs, and that expanding their use will require all cars to be made flex-fuel compatible.

    Using intermediate blends in non-FFVs can cause increased emissions and catalytic converter wear, as well as premature deterioration of fuel-system components, because ethanol is corrosive.

    FFVs use special fuel tanks, lines, and pumps designed to be more corrosion resistant. Their emissions systems are also specially designed to recognize and compensate for higher blends of ethanol. Making cars E85-compatible costs automakers about $200 per car, according to estimates. Engineering a car to run on E85 costs much less than building it to operate on other alternative fuels, such as diesel. Conventional vehicles could technically be converted to run on E85, but it would be prohibitively expensive once the car leaves the factory.

    Ethanol’s lower fuel economy results from its lower energy content compared to gasoline. For example, E85 contains 75,670 British thermal units of energy per gallon instead of 115,400 for regular unleaded gasoline, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

    So you have to burn more fuel to generate the same amount of energy. In addition, FFV engines are designed to run most efficiently on gasoline. Some engineers say E85 fuel economy could approach that of gasoline if manufacturers optimized engines for that fuel, however.

    Government support for ethanol
    The first effort to support ethanol usage is a 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit to “blenders,” the companies who blend ethanol into gasoline. This tax credit is intended to raise the price of ethanol for ethanol producers and corn farmers to encourage production, and to lower the price of ethanol products for consumers. It is strongly supported by farm lobbyists.

    Despite the tax credit, however, E85 costs about 70 cents a gallon more than gasoline on an energy equivalent basis on average, according to the Department of Energy.

    Second, the government provides significant fuel economy credits to automakers who build flex-fuel vehicles that can run on E85.

    The fuel economy credit was passed as part of the Alternative Motor Fuels Act of 1988 and counts toward a manufacturer’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, which is set by NHTSA.

    Of the 13 billion gallons of ethanol expected to be produced in 2010 and 2011, less than 2 percent, or 260 million gallons, will be blended into E85. Because our tests show that E85 provides 27 percent lower fuel economy, those 260 million gallons are able to replace only a little more than 214 million gallons of gasoline—a tiny fraction of the 170 billion gallons consumed on American roads every year.

    While the credits have put millions of FFVs on the road since the late 1990s, most have been large SUVs, pickups, and sedans that get relatively poor gas mileage. In the end, these FFV credits have indirectly allowed more large, gas-guzzling vehicles to be sold. As a result, these credits have increased annual U.S. gasoline consumption by about 1 percent, or 1.2 billion gallons, according to a 2005 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a nonprofit organization that focuses on safety and the environment.

    The third government initiative to promote ethanol is a mandate Congress passed as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requiring refiners to blend up to 36 billion gallons of ethanol into gasoline by 2022. This mandate, however, is bumping up against physical and economic limits.

    Increasing ethanol penetration much beyond current production will require either expanded sales and distribution of E85, or greater concentrations of ethanol in base gasoline. Automakers say this would essentially require all cars to be flex-fuel vehicles.

    Ethanol advocates’ latest gambit is to increase the percentage of ethanol blended into gas for regular cars from 10 percent to 15 percent. In March 2009, an industry trade group, Growth Energy, petitioned the EPA to allow E15 to be used in regular cars. And Underwriters Laboratories certified regular gas pumps to dispense ethanol blends up to 15 percent.

    Experts at Argonne National Laboratory say that corn production can’t be expanded enough to produce more than about 15 billion gallons of ethanol. In 2009, 21 percent of the corn crop was used to produce ethanol, according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). So to meet the 36-billion-gallon mandate will require new sources of ethanol.

    The future of ethanol
    Most experts don’t see the future of the ethanol industry taking root in America’s cornfields. A more promising long-term solution is cellulosic ethanol, which can be made from a variety of other sources such as corn stover (leaves, stalks, and other leftover parts), rye straw, wood pulp, and possibly switchgrass (commonly used for hay).

    In Brazil, where every new car runs on at least 20-percent ethanol and many run on pure ethanol, the fuel is made from sugarcane. “If this country is going to go big into ethanol, we need to tap into cellulosic ethanol,” says UCS Research Director of Clean Vehicles David Friedman, “because it’s cleaner and requires less fossil fuels than corn to produce.”

    A 2005 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimates that by 2030, ethanol from corn and cellulose could replace 30 percent of U.S. oil consumption—about the same as the United States currently imports from OPEC nations.

    Called the Billion Ton Study, it assumes that 1 billion tons of organic material could be used, with no loss of corn for food or feed, from resources such as forest waste organic residue, and energy crops such as switchgrass.

    Companies have developed a number of processes for creating cellulosic ethanol. A few technology companies are working on new chemical processes that could create ethanol from waste streams such as leftover construction materials and even municipal garbage. So far these technologies have only been demonstrated on a small scale, and it will take several years before we know whether they are viable. Today about two dozen cellulosic ethanol plants are under development in the United States.

    The big ethanol picture
    David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agricultural sciences, who served on a government committee that studied ethanol in the 1980s, says it takes almost 30 percent more energy to grow corn and turn it into ethanol than the ethanol contains.

    Michael Wang, an Argonne National Laboratories scientist who has contributed to several government studies, estimates that ethanol produces 35 percent more energy than its production process consumes.

    Most recent studies have shown a positive energy balance for ethanol of between 23 and 40 percent.

    Another debate centers on ethanol’s greenhouse gas emissions. Proponents say that ethanol use doesn’t add to the world’s balance of greenhouse gases because it simply puts back the same carbon dioxide that the source plants absorbed while growing. Some recent studies conclude that growing more corn in the United States causes farmers in other countries to clear more land to grow crops displaced by corn here.
    And in any case, harvesting crops such as switchgrass for ethanol that wouldn’t be harvested otherwise releases extra carbon into the atmosphere.

    What should consumers do?
    Currently, there’s no financial advantage to consumers in buying an FFV. As of January 2010, E85 cost $2.38 a gallon on a nationwide average basis, compared with $2.65 a gallon for regular gasoline. Considering the fuel’s worse fuel economy, however, it would cost consumers the equivalent of $3.36 a gallon to drive on E85 rather than gasoline, according to the federal Alternative Fuels Price Report.

    Even when gas prices rise, E85 doesn’t become more financially appealing, says Craig Pirrong, director of the University of Houston’s Global Energy Management Institute. Because it serves as a substitute for gasoline, “if the price of oil goes up, you would expect the price of ethanol to go up as well,” he says.

    On the other hand, there’s no inherent downside to buying FFVs, because they can run on gasoline and don’t carry the hefty price premiums of a hybrid. Your choice, however, is limited mostly to large SUVs, pickups, and sedans that get relatively poor gas mileage.

    So far only about 3,000 gas stations (out of 176,000 nationwide) sell E85 to the public. Finding an E85 pump near you can be a challenge. Most of these stations are in the upper Midwest, relatively close to where corn is grown and most ethanol is produced.

    Even using the most optimistic estimates, ethanol on its own will never be able to provide Americans with energy independence. Alternative energy experts say it will take a host of alternatives to meet the United States’ energy needs beyond oil. Ethanol proponents say that it should still be developed as a long-term hedge against oil shortages, because petroleum is a finite resource that has its own environmental problems. Ethanol, as one of an arsenal of oil alternatives, seems to have fewer problems than some other options.

    Test results: E85 vs. gasoline
    This chart shows how our 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe performed while running on E85 and gasoline in three fuel-economy tests and overall, in four acceleration tests, and in three emissions tests for gasoline vehicles.

    E85 GASOLINE, GASOLINE COMPARISON
    Mpg City 7, 9
    Mpg Highway 15, 21
    Mpg 150-mile trip 13, 18
    Mpg Overall 10, 14
    Emissions, parts per million: Nitrogen oxide 1, 9

    The great E85 fuel hunt
    The scarcity of E85 fuel in the Northeast made testing our Chevrolet Tahoe more of a challenge than we had first anticipated. We quickly found there are no commercial stations in Connecticut, where our auto-test center is located, where we could fill up with E85. The only E85 pumps we could locate were owned by the state of Connecticut, and the fuel wasn’t for sale. After a call to a representative of the state’s alternative-fuels program, we found that the state buys its ethanol from a supplier in Alabama. So we contacted the supplier and arranged to have 220 gallons of ethanol shipped to us from South Carolina by truck in four 55-gallon drums.

    But that got us only the pure denatured ethanol. To use it in the Tahoe, we had to blend it with gasoline in an 85/15 percent ratio to create E85. For that, we again turned to the state and arranged to have a fuel expert come to our track and help us blend the fuel by hand.

    The whole process took the better part of a month to complete and vividly illustrated why advertising flex-fuel vehicles in most of the country is currently an empty promise.

    • September 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

      1 It’s unethical to produce fuel from a food crop, because doing so drives up food prices. Most ethanol in the United States is made from corn.

      2 Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, and it takes a lot of energy to produce.

      3 Studies haven’t yielded consensus. But indicate a significant concern. Producing ethanol may—or may not—increase emissions of carbon-dioxide, a gas linked to global warming.

      Putting E85 to the test
      To better judge ethanol’s strengths and weaknesses, we decided to buy a flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) and put E85 to the test. E85 is an ethanol mixture promoted as an alternative to gasoline.

      We put our 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV through our full series of fuel-economy and acceleration tests while running on each fuel. When running on E85 there was no significant change in acceleration. Fuel economy, however, dropped across the board. In highway driving, gas mileage decreased from 21 to 15 mpg; in city driving, it dropped from 9 to 7 mpg. You could expect a similar decrease in gas mileage in any current FFV.

      You start off slow with your three points then add in a big narrative that has no meaning.

      1. Not only is it not unethical to produce fuel from food, it’s irrelevant since most corn grown for ethanol production is grown specifically to be used for ethanol production.

      2. It takes lots of energy to produce gasoline, more energy than it takes to produce ethanol. So your point is irrelevant.

      3. I’ll be happy to debate the reality and presumed causes of man-made global warming elsewhere.

      Regarding the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV narrative: Flex fuel vehicle engines are still optimized to run on gasoline, not ethanol. They merely have some minor parts substitutions and the internal computer is programmed to recognize the use of a fuel other than E10 gasoline. Therefore it is natural that it would produce greater MPG with E10 than with E85. General Motors marketed the vehicles under the assumption that should emergency situations occur and gasoline supplies severely diminished that FFV owners would be able to easily use E85. In addition, the entire branding and labeling was primarily a way to make it look like GM was taking the lead in adhering to Congressional pressures.

      • eric
        September 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

        Hi Mark,

        In re “fuel from food”:

        The corn may be grown specifically for ethanol production but the fact remains that the land/resources (and energy) used to grow it is land/resources and energy that could have gone to food production. Hence, not irrelevant.

        I disagree with you that it costs more to make (refine) gasoline than ethanol. In this country, at least, that is simply untrue. Because gasoline is used in the process. You might have an argument if we were talking about ethanol made from cane sugar, as in Brazil. But that is neither here nor there as regards the situation in the US.

        The fact remains the ethanol program is a classic example of rent seeking, of big corporations using their political pull to get laws passed that benefit them. There would be no market for ethanol absent the force-feeding of ethanol into the market by the government, at the behest of the agribusiness cartel.

        On E85:

        PM Lawrence made an excellent point that the gains attributable to higher CR (and cooling effect) from alcohol fuels merely compensate for the reduced energy per volume of the fuel.

        The fact remains that a gallon of gas will take you farther than a gallon of E10 (or E85).

        Now, certainly, if the E10 or E8 were cheaper than gas such that the increased quantity (volume) used was obviated by the lower cost per gallon then – hey – sounds good.

        Well, for engines made to burn the stuff.

        But there are still millions of vehicles out there not designed to burn the stuff.

        And that was the thrust of my article.

      • methylamine
        September 24, 2014 at 10:53 am

        1. Not only is it not unethical to produce fuel from food, it’s irrelevant since most corn grown for ethanol production is grown specifically to be used for ethanol production.

        2. It takes lots of energy to produce gasoline, more energy than it takes to produce ethanol. So your point is irrelevant….

        You’re rapidly drifting now from the realm of mistaken, past obtuse, to frankly disingenuous.

        Do you not understand that food and agricultural land are finite resources, and that diverting them to make fuel instead of edibles reduces the output of edibles, thereby increasing their price?

        Please explain how producing gasoline takes more energy per unit of fuel energy yielded than ethanol–because that’s a fantastic statement.

        You do see the inputs to ethanol, I hope: Land. Water. Fertilizer–lots of it, produced with natural gas. Diesel–to plow, sow, reap, transport. Then producing the mash, heating it–more natural gas. Distilling the alcohol–MORE natural gas. Then MORE diesel to transport the ethanol.

        Many studies show roughly a one-to-one input of petroleum fuels to ethanol output; meaning it costs 1.3 gallons of petroleum to produce 1 gallon-btu-equivalent of ethanol.

        Depending on where it’s produced, petroleum yields between 2 and 10 times input as output. If it didn’t, we couldn’t use it–it would use more energy to produce it than it yields, like ethanol.

        • Phillip the Bruce
          September 24, 2014 at 11:09 am

          In addition, the higher price for corn caused by the demand for ethanol is contributing to land that would otherwise not be suitable for corn production (e.g., Nebraska sand hills) to be plowed and brought under irrigation. This in turn is drawing down the Oglala Aquifer, requiring deeper wells to be drilled for homesteads.

      • BrentP
        September 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm

        An engine can be modified to operate well on ethanol. Due its anti-knock properties timing can be advanced, compression increased, etc. There are ways to achieve the same with gasoline. In either case this energy out/energy in. The energy per unit volume of the fuel does not change therefore MPG, miles per unit volume of fuel, will only increase if the engine efficiency increase over using another fuel is great enough to overcome the lower energy density. This is unlikely in an ethanol gasoline comparison.

        The measure would simply be miles per unit of currency at any given time. (since currency value is not static) But alas we don’t have a free market so even this value is hopelessly twisted and unreliable.

        The only way to judge ethanol, corn based ethanol, properly is to have a free market in fuels. Something neither the gasoline or ethanol makers want.

  5. September 24, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Phillip – In re-re-reading the original article, I agree. It was referring to older engines.

  6. Tor Minotaur
    September 24, 2014 at 4:30 am

    The energy density of ethanol is not even close to gas. Best bet is to modify engine to burn uranium.
    Here’s how much energy you get per kg:

    Storage material Specific energy (MJ/kg)
    Uranium 80,620,000
    Thorium 79,420,000
    Hydrogen (compressed) at 70 MPa) 142
    Diesel / Fuel oil Chemical 48
    LPG (including Propane / Butane) 46.4
    Jet fuel 46
    Gasoline (petrol) 44.4
    Fat (animal/vegetable) 37
    Ethanol fuel (E100) 26.4
    Coal 24
    Methanol fuel 19.7
    Carbohydrates (including sugars) 17
    Protein 16.8
    Wood 16.2
    TNT 4.6
    Gunpowder 3
    Lithium battery (non-rechargeable) 1.8

  7. Me2
    January 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Looks like my ‘facepalm’ at Marc Rauch’s #1 got lost. Really, it should be there as it was quite facepalm worthy.

  8. Me2
    January 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Marc Rauch “1. Energy content in a gallon of gasoline vs. a gallon of ethanol is completely and totally irrelevant.”

    Marc Rauch “2. The comment about ethanol being negative fuel efficient is predicated upon a study conducted by David Pimentel at Cornell with preposterous information.”

    How was it ‘preposterous information’? I am sure it is obvious to you but how about specifics for the rest of us?

    Marc Rauch “3. If there was such a free market, gasoline would never, ever be able to compete with ethanol in price or performance. Every study done to show the true cost of gasoline is somewhere between $10 and $15 per gallon.”

    ‘Every study’? Citations please. BTW just one ‘study’ that shows otherwise would invalidate your claim. Your ‘absolute’ statements betray arrogance of the highest degree.

    Marc Rauch “4. Even with the gasoline-industry affected price of E85, E85 is typically more cost effective. A gasoline-powered car using E85 mat get 5-10% less MPG, but the cost savings per gallon is usually 15-30% less per gallon. Therefore there is a net savings.”

    Hmmm, so now you are agreeing E85 blend gets less MPG? Where are theses stations tat sell E85 at a 15-30% discount compared to pure gas? I have yet to see one.

    • John Kane
      January 10, 2013 at 3:32 am

      I’ve been using a 50/50 mix of E85 and E10 (regular gas) for almost three years now in my mid-80’s Volvo 240s. I get 28+ mpg with my manual transmission, 22+ in the automatic, no detectable difference in mpg or performance, or maintenance costs. This is with no modifications to the engine at all. I pass our California dynomometer smog testing with flying colors.

      My local station, at last fill-up, sold gas at $3.49, E85 at $3.09, a 40 cent or 11% discount. When gas was approaching $5 last year, E85 was under $4.20, a 16% difference.

      David Pimentel’s work on EROEI (energy return on energy invested) is deconstructed by David Blume here http://www.alcoholcanbeagas.com/node/490

      There are certainly criticisms to be leveled at the industrial agribusiness model of ethanol production, but let’s not throw out the baby. Ethanol should be integrated into our transportation fuels mix going into and beyond the 21st century. It’s our financial systems that need deconstruction.

      • January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

        Hi John,

        Well, you’re brave!

        The automakers all uniformly warn most stridently that using E85 in a car not made to use it will cause damage and will void any warranty coverage.

        As far as mileage: I test drive new cars every week. All makes, all models. Those not optimized to use ethanol (non-“flex fuel”) return, on average, 2-3 MPG less when using E10 than when I fill them with 100 percent regular unleaded (available in my area). A gallon of E10 has less energy content than a gallon of pure gas. For that reason, it takes a greater volume of E10 to drive a given distance. As far as E85: Even EPA has publicly conceded a significant reduction in mileage/range, relative to a car using the same quantity of gasoline. Granted, this would be largely irrelevant if burning a larger volume of ethanol (to make up for it having less energy) could be done at lower cost relative to an energy-equivalent quantity of gasoline. But ethanol is a net-loser, in terms of what it costs to make the stuff vs. what you get out of it.

        I work on old stuff – cars and bikes (plus lots of power equipment) and I can attest, from personal experience, that using ethanol-alcohol fuel in these older vehicles accelerates rusting of metal tanks and fuel lines and also attacks rubber parts (diaphragms, gaskets, floats, etc.) not made to handle the more corrosive (and hygroscopic) ethanol-laced “gas.”

        So, I see no upside – unless you’re an agribusiness cartel receiving government-enforced revenue from the forced “sale” of your product.

        • BrentP
          January 11, 2013 at 4:33 am

          Prolonged use can cause damage. I know this from experience. I pulled a fuel pump and removed E85 from a car many years ago. That car still runs fine today.

          Climate has a big role as well, because the moisture has to come from somewhere.

          Meanwhile big oil is creating plants to make gasoline and diesel from natural gas. Why? Because natural gas has become so cheap by comparison they can make perfect fuels that can then in turn be used to blend with.

    • September 24, 2014 at 3:43 am

      Eric –

      BTU measurement is used to explain and calculate how much energy is required to heat water. If we were discussing a steam powered engine, heating water is a significant issue. But internal combustion engines are not dependent on heating water.

      Using ethanol in a typical gasoline-powered engine will produce fewer miles than gasoline because the engine is optimized to run on gasoline, not because there is a difference in BTUs. Using ethanol in a similar engine that is optimized to run on ethanol will deliver at least the same mileage along with greater horse power. This principle has been known and understood for more than a century. For example:

      In 1906, during the hearings before Congress on the FREE ALCOHOL BILL, the legislation that would finally remove the $2+ per gallon tax on alcohol production, this issue was testified to several times by different witnesses.

      Also in 1906, the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted experiments with ethanol and gasoline and concluded that the power from ethanol is materially higher than gasoline.

      In 1907 and 1908, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Geological Service jointly conducted 2,000 tests on ethanol and gasoline and concluded: “While gasoline carries about one-third more energy than an equal amount of alcohol, the higher engine compression ratios allowed by the latter made the two fuels highly comparable.”

      In 1906, the Edison Electric Testing Laboratory and Columbia University began testing ethanol. Elihu Thomson, who worked with Thomas Edision and was a co-founder of General Electric, reported that despite a smaller heat or B.T.U. value, “a gallon of alcohol will develop substantially the same power in an internal combustion engine as a gallon of gasoline. This is owing to the superior efficiency of operation.” Thompson became acting president of MIT in the early 1920’s.

      Another way to demonstrate engine optimization and why BTU rating is irrelevant is to compare gasoline with diesel fuel. Diesel, which is also produced from petroleum oil, is rated at about 129,000 BTUs (higher than gasoline’s 116,000 BTUs). Using Bryce’s “basic physics” logic it would stand to reason that diesel if used in a gasoline optimized engine, should produce about 10% more miles per gallon. However, if you fill your gasoline vehicle’s tank with diesel you get less miles per gallon, much less miles per gallon…like none – the engine won’t run. Conversely, if you fill a diesel-powered vehicle with gasoline, you don’t just get 10% fewer miles, you’ll probably get zero miles, assuming the vehicle even starts. So regardless of BTU rating, the key is engine optimization.

      Regarding the Pimentel/Patzek studies:
      Alright, you have my take on what Pimentell and Patzek did. Consider some examples of studies that studied the Pimentell-Patzek studies. The first of which comes from Tad Patzek’s own school, UC Berkeley. It was a study completed in 2006 after the Pimentell-Patzek studies and it was conducted by UC Berkley’s Energy and Resources Group. Here’s some highlights of the results

      Ethanol can replace gasoline with significant energy savings, comparable impact on greenhouse gases

      “The analysis, appearing in this week’s issue of Science, attempts to settle the ongoing debate over whether ethanol is a good substitute for gasoline and thus can help lessen the country’s reliance on foreign oil and support farmers in the bargain.”

      “Dan Kammen and Alex Farrell of the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley, with their students Rich Plevin, Brian Turner and Andy Jones along with Michael O’Hare, a professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy, deconstructed six separate high-profile studies of ethanol. They assessed the studies’ assumptions and then reanalyzed each after correcting errors, inconsistencies and outdated information regarding the amount of energy used to grow corn and make ethanol, and the energy output in the form of fuel and corn byproducts.”

      “Kammen estimates that ethanol could replace 20 to 30 percent of fuel usage in this country with little effort in just a few years. In the long term, the United States may be able to match Sweden, which recently committed to an oil-free future based on ethanol from forests and solar energy. Kammen last year published a paper, also in Science, arguing that even Africa could exploit its biomass to build a biofuel industry that could meet energy needs for the poor and develop a sustainable local fuel supply, a future much better than using fossil fuels.”

      “The goal of the UC Berkeley analysis was to understand how six studies of fuel ethanol could come to such different conclusions about the overall energy balance in its production and use. Farrell, Kammen and their UC Berkeley colleagues dissected each study and recreated its analysis in a spreadsheet where they could be compared side-by-side. The team said it found numerous “errors, inconsistencies and omissions” among the studies, such as not considering the value of co-products of ethanol production – dried distillers grains, corn gluten feed and corn oil – that boost the net energy gain from ethanol production. Other studies overestimated the energy used by farm machinery.”

      “The assumptions made by some of the authors were not based on the best data, or were just a little bit too convenient, and had a strong impact on the results,” Kammen said.”

      Included in the UC Berkeley review were the following:
      Thermodynamics of the Corn-Ethanol Biofuel Cycle Patzek, T.W., Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 23(6), 519-567 (2004).

      Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switchgrass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production Using Soybean and Sunflower David Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek, Natural Resource Research, 14(1), 65-76 (2005).

      Another study, conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, was presented in 2007 at UC Berkeley – what a coincidence – by Roger Conway, Office of Energy Policy and New Uses at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The report showed huge discrepancies in the figures that Pimentall and Patzek used to arrive at their conclusions versus the figures used by USDA’s efforts to conduct their own studies on ethanol vs. gasoline EROEI. The USDA studies were significantly more favorable towards ethanol production.

      A Michigan State University study conducted by Bruce Dale, Professor of Chemical Engineering, found that the Pimentell-Patzek methodology is flawed. The measurements of BTU are irrelevant and that the net energy of ethanol is actually higher than gasoline (in other words, EROEI for ethanol is positive, while the EROEI of gasoline is more negative).

      In 2011, Forrest Jehlik, Research Engineer, Argonne National Laboratory responded to what he felt are the 5 most prevalent myths about ethanol. He said that ethanol does not take more energy to make than it yields, “Argonne National Laboratory research has shown that corn ethanol delivers a positive energy balance of 8.8 megajoules per liter. The energy balance from second-generation biofuels using cellulosic sources is up to six times better…”

      In October 2009, David Blume traveled to Cornell University to conduct a workshop on permaculture. While there he paid a call on David Pimentell and was able to record the conversation. In the more than 20-minute long conversation Pimentell agrees and acknowledges that many of the conclusions that were drawn in the studies he conducted are now incorrect, or could be rendered incorrect given advances in farming and ethanol production – advances that already had been proven by the time of this conversation in 2009.

      Regarding your request for citations about what gasoline would really cost, see:
      http://www.progress.org/tpr/what-gasoline-really-costs-us/

      You wrote, “Your ‘absolute’ statements betray arrogance of the highest degree.” In fact, your problem is that I know something you don’t. That’s not arrogance, it’s knowledge.

      Finally, you wrote, “Where are theses stations that sell E85 at a 15-30% discount compared to pure gas? I have yet to see one.” I don’t know where there are stations that sell “pure gas” because I’ve never seen one. However, I know where there are stations that sell E85 less than E10 gasoline (regular gasoline blends). If you haven’t seen any, it’s because you chose not to read the signs.

      Here’s two examples:
      http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2011/03/26/525119.htm
      http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2011/05/09/531654-using-e85-non-flex-fuel-vehicle-can-save-almost-1.html

      • eric
        September 24, 2014 at 5:35 am

        Hi Marc,

        If an engine is designed to run on alcohol then the problems discussed (carburetor/gas tank fouling, etc.) are not problems. The point of the article was ethanol’s negative effects on engines not designed to run on ethanol. Many of the regulars here at EPautos are “old car” (and bike) people. There is no question that ethanol causes problems in the fuel systems of older (typically carbureted) fuel systems.

        And even with regard to modern engines designed to burn such fuel, their mileage is less when they run E10 vs. 100 percent unleaded. Now, granted, this is balanced to an extent by the higher-compression/more efficient operation that characterizes current engine design. But, I wonder how these car engines would perform – and what sort of mileage they’d return – if instead of high-octane E10 they were fueled with high octane 100 percent gas?

        The other issues raised are legitimate as well (e.g., the dubious input-output of using corn to make fuel for IC engines, the rent-seeking of agribusiness, the effect on food prices).

        • September 24, 2014 at 9:47 am

          You write, “Many of the regulars here at EPautos are “old car” (and bike) people. There is no question that ethanol causes problems in the fuel systems of older (typically carbureted) fuel systems.”

          This may be correct. However, I re-read your original statement and failed to find where you preface those remarks with this admonition. Therefore, as I was not a regular on your message board I didn’t automatically know your were directing your remarks at older passenger vehicles. If I did, I would have agreed that people with older vehicles or chain saws (for example) should stay away from using any high level ethanol-gasoline blend. It would have saved me from ever posting any comments.

          To your “I wonder how these car engines would perform – and what sort of mileage they’d return – if instead of high-octane E10 they were fueled with high octane 100 percent gas?”, I add my wonder. If you can find something that is “100% gasoline” without any additives to eliminate the knock that would occur in a high compression engine, let me know.

          Regarding “effect on fuel prices,” there’s no need to bring other incorrect arguments against ethanol to buttress the previous incorrect arguments against ethanol.

          • Phillip the Bruce
            September 24, 2014 at 9:56 am

            You read the ‘message board,’ but did you read the article? That makes it pretty clear that he’s referring primarily to ‘non-FI” engines.

          • eric
            September 24, 2014 at 10:56 am

            Crikey, Marc!

            Here’s a sentence from the original article:

            “It can also cause problems in older (and especially occasional use) vehicles and power equipment not originally designed to withstand high alcohol-content fuels.”

            And the fact remains that ethanol is energy-inefficient relative to gasoline. It takes more to go the same distance (or produce the same power). Alcohol-running cars use higher-flow/higher-capacity injectors (or bigger jets). Why? Because it takes more volume/flow to make the same power. Right?

            And: An additive is one thing. 10 (or 15 or 85 percent) alcohol is something else.

            In any case, I never disputed the octane-enhancing properties of ethanol.

      • September 24, 2014 at 5:57 am

        Oh, dear. That is absolutely crawling with misunderstandings. I will try to clear them up.

        BTU measurement is used to explain and calculate how much energy is required to heat water. If we were discussing a steam powered engine, heating water is a significant issue. But internal combustion engines are not dependent on heating water.

        Yes, actually, we are dealing with that, because:-

        – there’s a lot of water in the combustion gasses, and its high latent heat of vapourisation matters a lot because it holds the temperature down (that is why cyanogen and dicyanoacetylene burn even hotter than acetylene – they hold energy with similar bonds but there is no hydrogen in them to form water vapour);

        – B.T.U. measurement tells you how much thermal energy is available by using water as a comparison or standard of reference, but that does not mean that it is only relevant for heating water; if you know how much burning coal will boil water for a steam engine (say), you also have some numbers to crunch for a Stirling engine with air as a working fluid (say).

        Using ethanol in a typical gasoline-powered engine will produce fewer miles than gasoline because the engine is optimized to run on gasoline, not because there is a difference in BTUs.

        This is plain wrong, precisely because it is misunderstanding the point of your 1907 and 1908 quotations, which are entirely sound. What they actually mean is that using ethanol in a typical petrol powered engine will produce fewer miles than petrol because the engine is optimised to run on petrol, so that it cannot take advantage of being optimised to run on ethanol to make up for the difference in B.T.U.s. But if it had as much energy content as petrol and could still run, it would do even better still than petrol with optimisation and no worse without. The problem leading to poorer performance isn’t that the engine is optimised for petrol, it’s that the same settings and tuning aren’t optimal for ethanol and that has less energy. If physics and chemistry had been kinder, the same settings would work because the ethanol would burn hotter anyway and the engine could still cope – but that didn’t happen.

        Another way to demonstrate engine optimization and why BTU rating is irrelevant is to compare gasoline with diesel fuel. Diesel, which is also produced from petroleum oil, is rated at about 129,000 BTUs (higher than gasoline’s 116,000 BTUs). Using Bryce’s “basic physics” logic it would stand to reason that diesel if used in a gasoline optimized engine, should produce about 10% more miles per gallon. However, if you fill your gasoline vehicle’s tank with diesel you get less miles per gallon, much less miles per gallon…like none – the engine won’t run. Conversely, if you fill a diesel-powered vehicle with gasoline, you don’t just get 10% fewer miles, you’ll probably get zero miles, assuming the vehicle even starts. So regardless of BTU rating, the key is engine optimization.

        This is wrong, too. Diesel would produce about 10% more miles per gallon, if only it could vapourise under the same conditions. If you leaned out the petrol as much as the diesel, that would either not run too or run worse. The logic applies to fuel delivered, not to something that doesn’t work for unrelated reasons. It’s not failing because of thermal energy content issues but because it doesn’t deliver that where it’s needed.

        Incidentally, there used to be some tractors and commercial fishing boats with paraffin engines that started on petrol and then switched to paraffin vapourised by the exhaust heat once that had warmed up. Those were less efficient than petrol engines despite there being more energy in the fuel for a different reason: the heating needed to get the fuel delivered reduced the effective temperature difference used by the engines and so lowered their thermodynamic efficiency disproportionately more. These engines were used because the fuel was cheaper for tax reasons and because it was more readily available (small shops could store it as it needed fewer precautions than petrol – once a few early accidents had shown lamp oil producers it was important to get the lighter fractions out).

        You wrote, “Your ‘absolute’ statements betray arrogance of the highest degree.” In fact, your problem is that I know something you don’t. That’s not arrogance, it’s knowledge.

        As a famous nineteenth century U.S. humourist said, “it ain’t what you don’t know that’ll hurt you, it’s what you do know that ain’t so” (see also “a little learning is a dangerous thing / drink deep, or touch not the Pierian spring”). That’s the kind of knowledge you’ve got, the result of getting hold of the wrong end of the stick of genuine results and data.

        • September 24, 2014 at 9:52 am

          Speaking of humorists, in writing this reply, were you inspired by old videos of Professor Irwin Corey’s speeches?

        • Phillip the Bruce
          September 24, 2014 at 10:37 am

          When estimating the net energy value/cost of E10, don’t forget that it must be transported by tank, while non-ethanol gasoline can go by pipeline.

      • methylamine
        September 24, 2014 at 9:03 am

        Marc–thermodynamics will not be mocked. We may snicker behind its back but we dare not laugh openly.

        As you acknowledge, ethanol combustion yields fewer joules per unit volume.
        Vehicle “mileage” is calculated as the number of miles traveled per unit volume.

        Assuming optimum energy extraction from a given fuel, you WILL obtain greater mileage from a fuel with greater energy content.

        That’s a big “if”–“optimum energy extraction”. But given Carnot-cycle heat engines–the internal combustion engines we’re talking about, more specifically four-stroke piston engines–the math is irrefutable.

        Yes, alcohol engines can run higher compression due to the cooling effect and high octane…I see NASCAR has switched recently, allowing them to run lower revs and higher compression to get the same or better horsepower and greater efficiency.

        But it’s not enough to overcome the massive unit-volume energy deficit of ethanol.

        As for “cellulosic ethanol”–we’re still burning food for ethanol, ruining perfectly good farm land to chase a government-subsidized fantasy. There are no industrial-scale cellulose-to-ethanol plants; switch grass has been a twinkle in the greenies’ eyes for two decades.

        • September 24, 2014 at 10:01 am

          A spark-induced internal combustion vehicle engine that is optimized to run on gasoline will produce greater mpg when using gasoline rather than ethanol because it is optimized to run on gasoline.

          A similar vehicle engine that is optimized to run on ethanol will produce greater mpg when using ethanol than gasoline because it is optimized to run on ethanol.

          It’s not a question of math or thermodynamics.

          Generally speaking, no one is burning “food for fuel.” The corn used to produce ethanol is generally speaking grown specifically to be used for ethanol production, not for food.

          • methylamine
            September 24, 2014 at 10:26 am

            You’re either missing the point or purposely being obtuse.

            Well-optimized internal combustion engines designed for their respective fuel–gasoline or ethanol–will of course run better on their preferred fuel.

            But the gasoline engine will travel further on a gallon of gasoline than the ethanol engine on a gallon of ethanol.

            THAT’S thermodynamics.

            Again, don’t be obtuse–the corn’s grown for ethanol production, but it displaces productive land that could grow food; in essence, “burning food”. And the corn itself–though not ideal for food–could be used as such.

            It’s a massive boondoggle, a scam, a con, a crony capitalist’s dream.

  9. January 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Eric – Your information is wrong.

    1. Energy content in a gallon of gasoline vs. a gallon of ethanol is completely and totally irrelevant.

    2. The comment about ethanol being negative fuel efficient is predicated upon a study conducted by David Pimentel at Cornell with preposterous information. In addition, later studies, such as the one done by UC Berkeley show that not only the Pimentel study (and all other reports issued as a by-product of the Pimentel study) are incorrect.

    3. If there was such a free market, gasoline would never, ever be able to compete with ethanol in price or performance. Every study done to show the true cost of gasoline is somewhere between $10 and $15 per gallon. Ethanol is only priced as high as it is because its distribution as a blend at stations is controlled by the gasoline industry.

    4. Even with the gasoline-industry affected price of E85, E85 is typically more cost effective. A gasoline-powered car using E85 mat get 5-10% less MPG, but the cost savings per gallon is usually 15-30% less per gallon. Therefore there is a net savings.

    • methylamine
      January 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      I’d like to see links for all four propositions, because they’re so far off the numbers I’ve read for years.

      Just as an exercise in common sense, track the path of corn ethanol:

      1) prepare the field–using fuel
      2) plant the seeds–more fuel
      3) water the plants–using (copious) water
      4) fertilize the plants–more fuel (Haber process to fix nitrogen uses mucho energy)
      5) harvest–more fuel
      6) transport to fermentation plants–more fuel
      7) distill–more fuel

      $10-15/gallon real price? Is that derived by attributing the entire military budget as a procurement cost?

      I’m willing to listen but you’ll have to back your assertions.

    • January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Marc,

      How is the fact that there is less energy in a given quantity of ethanol fuel not relevant?

      If I have to burn 1.2 gallons of ethanol to go the same distance a gallon of gas would take me, how is this not a negative? The only way I can see that it wouldn’t be would be if the ethanol cost less – enough to make up for the decrease in operating efficiency. But it does not.

      Every study of US (note, not Brazilian or other) ethanol production shows it’s a net loser. More “in” than “out.”

      Gasoline is in fact cheaper in real terms today than it was 30 years ago. Its price is higher – but that is almost entirely due to inflation – and taxes.

      • September 24, 2014 at 3:21 am

        Sorry for the delay in responding. I thought the discussion was over.

        In any event, the scenario you describe in burning the gasoline is not how an ICE works. If you were talking about boiling water to create steam for a steam-powered engine then you would be correct and BTU’s or “energy content would be relevant.

        • eric
          September 24, 2014 at 5:45 am

          Hi Marc,

          A follow-up article is on deck about dealing with the lean operating condition caused in older (non-FI, no ECU) vehicles by ethanol.

          Also just got done de-rusting/sealing another older (1983 MY) motorcycle’s tank. This particular bike was a very low mileage “survivor” I acquired about four years ago. It had not been run in more than ten years prior to my acquiring it. At that time, its tank was pristine. By this year – after being in regular use for the preceding four years – I found the interior of the tank mottled with rust. I’ve observed this (i.e., accelerated rust formation in older vehicle fuel systems) before. I attribute it to the water-attractive properties of the fuel.

          PS: I have a Stihl chainsaw. The manual warns to not use ethanol fuels in this unit.

          • September 24, 2014 at 9:30 am

            Is there a point to this information that’s relevant to what was being discussed?

    • BrentP
      January 10, 2013 at 2:45 am

      “the true cost of gasoline”? These are always out of the ass numbers that people who want to control energy make up as they go along. In a real free market, not one where the US military serves the oil cartel, etc, gasoline would still come out on top. If that $15 is based on anything approaching reality it is based on the costs generated by the cartel. Cartels are costly. Free markets drive prices to zero.

      Corn ethanol is a loser energy wise because it doesn’t power itself. If we had a free market sugar cane ethanol would drive corn ethanol off the market in short order.

      • Phillip the Bruce
        September 24, 2014 at 9:48 am

        “If we had a free market, sugar cane ethanol would drive corn ethanol off the market in short order.” But if we had a free market, there would be little or no sugar cane grown in the US. Protective tariffs put the price of sugar in the US at about 2x that on the world market. Same applies to the ‘bagasse’ by-product of sugar refining.

        • BrentP
          September 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

          likely the ethanol would be imported or the sugar cane to make it.

          While the sugar cronies already had the later covered, the sugar and corn cronies thought this out with regards to ethanol as well and made sure the former was made economically non-viable too.

          They’ve got everything under control and the masses range from unaware to duped.

          • Phillip the Bruce
            September 24, 2014 at 10:28 am

            Baaaaaaa!
            Thanks Brent.
            As Eric has pointed out numerous times, the original STATED purpose of mandating ethanol has been made obsolete by fuel injection.
            BTW, not all sugar is made from cane. But the sugar beets produced in the US are Monsanto GMO’s. And the farmers who grow them think Monsanto hung the moon, because they donate computer labs to the local Gunvermin Indoctrination Centers.

    • BrentP
      September 24, 2014 at 10:28 am

      ‘True cost of gasoline’ lol. these ‘true costs’ are always loaded with arbitrary factors to produce the desired result. They are nothing more than political blather. We don’t have a free market in gasoline to keep the prices high. That’s why free markets are undermined, to keep prices to us, the slaves and serfs of the society, high. In the early 1990s prices crashed and big oil took action buying out the independent refineries. Environmental regulation makes new refinery building practically impossible. It can be done, but you better know the price of gasoline ten years from now and how much it will cost you to make then to take the plunge and build one.

      People say the middle east wars are to keep oil prices low. No, they aren’t. they are to keep oil prices high. To keep oil from reaching market. To keep oil in the ‘correct’ corporate hands. Remember the problem before the middle east wars was cheap gasoline, cheap oil. There were entities like the government of Iraq that were over producing. Ignoring quotas and limits, going against the cartel. This lowered prices for us, the mundanes. Wars are about making insiders money, not lowering prices. (see “War is a Racket”)

      And yes, the infrastructure is very efficient to lower their costs. That was all built when the market was more free than it is now. Gasoline has nothing to fear from corn ethanol other than its powerful political backers.

      E85 is cheaper through subsidy. Take away the corn growers and corn ethanol subsidies and E85’s cost advantages go away. Even with subsidy on a BTU basis there probably is no advantage and yes, the energy in the fuel matters. It matters considerably. You’re not going to change the thermal efficiency of the engine by using a lower energy/volume fuel to any extent worth noting without modifying the engine. A greater volume of fuel must be consumed. Also ICEs are dependent on volume rates. Screw with the BTU/volume too much and problems will result.

  10. January 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Eric – what you wrote in your reply about an ICE optimized to run on ethanol is correct: using gasoline in it would be inefficient as compared to using ethanol. And it’s inefficient even though the gasoline could be said to have higher energy content. It’s a similar scenario to the one I set forth about trying to use diesel in an engine optimized for gasoline. It’s all about engine optimization, not a formula that is only relevant to heating water.

    The energy content formula is only relevant if we are discussing the most efficient way to heat water to a boil in order to power a steam engine.

    Moreover, if engine damage is a real concern, then you would never want to run gasoline in an ethanol optimized ICE. At least, you can run ethanol in a gasoline-optimized engine and the worst you get are debatable arguments as to whether the ethanol is causing any greater amount of cylinder wall pitting then the pitting caused by gasoline. And I don’t know of any situation in which it’s ever suggested that gasoline should be used to clean out an ethanol optimized engine.

    If you have a gasoline-powered vehicle and you want to increase performance characteristics, you add in ethanol. If you want to really increase performance you only use ethanol or a very high ethanol-gasoline blend, and make adjustments to the engine to optimize its use of the ethanol. This involve changing the spark timing, the fuel injectors, the length of piston stroke, and of course you would use parts that are resistant to alcohol corrosion.

    So my point is not to villain-ize ethanol by employing incorrect information about the energy characteristics of ethanol. If someone has a vehicle in which the complete system is not optimized to run on ethanol (the fuel lines, connectors, gaskets, etc.) then the engine will not run as efficiently as it does with gasoline and there will be corrosion and breaking down of rubber parts. Therefore, if ethanol is used you should change the parts. But this is a moot point because even if you use “pure” gasoline the parts will need to be changed at some point. Gasoline doesn’t preserve and protect all of these parts, it destroys them, too.

    And if the engine is anything more than a relatively unsophisticated engine, then you must use something in the gasoline to prevent the engine from breaking apart from the knock. This is why GM/Standard Oil/DuPont invented leaded gasoline in the first place. But they only made leaded gasoline their fuel of choice because they could patent the formula, which allowed them to make billions of dollars (trillions in modern terms). It was not a decision based upon gasoline being a better fuel. Over time, it was natural to use parts that were optimized for gasoline, but that was just another way for the petroleum companies to protect their exalted position.

    • January 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Hi Marc,

      You write:

      “…even though the gasoline could be said to have higher energy content”

      Italics added.

      It’s not “could be said.” It’s does. Gas – pure gas – contains more potential energy than the same volume of ethanol or ethanol-laced fuel. Put another way, it takes more ethanol to release an equivalent amount of energy.

      Ethanol can only be more efficient/economical than gas as an energy source when it costs less than gas – which makes up for the fact that you need to use more of it to get the same result.

      In the US, ethanol (corn-based) is horrendously energy-inefficient. It is a net energy loser (takes more to “input” than you get in “outputs”). It is in the fuel supply for one reason only: The power of the agribusiness lobby. If we had a truly free market – free of cartel capitalism and rent-seeking – ethanol as a fuel would exist only in the niche markets (race fuel and so on).

  11. January 9, 2013 at 4:48 am

    The problem is that you’re attempting to address a subject (ethanol-gasoline blends) and your base information is incorrect, which then makes all your ensuing recommendations wrong or suspect.

    A gasoline-powered vehicle that uses a ethanol-gasoline blend does not get fewer MPG (if indeed you have a vehicle that does get less MPG if you use an ethanol-gasoline blend) because ethanol has “less energy per gallon.” It will get less MPG because the engine is not optimized to run on a high-level ethanol-gasoline blend. Energy content per gallon is irrelevant.

    In an ICE optimized for gasoline the spark timing is wrong for ethanol, the fuel injectors are wrong for ethanol, and the piston stroke is too short to make full use of the greater compression performance allowed by ethanol. The fact that ethanol will work at all in a gasoline engine is amazing.

    Diesel has more “energy” per gallon than gasoline, but if you put diesel in your gasoline-powered vehicle it will not start and will not run. This doesn’t mean diesel has less “energy,” it’s because the engine is not optimized to use diesel.

    • January 9, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Hi Marc,

      An IC engine not optimized for an ethanol blend will not get the mileage it would were it fed the gasoline for which it was designed. “Optimizing” an engine to run on ethanol (or ethanol blends) doesn’t somehow make ethanol more efficient (or even as efficient) as a gas-burning engine. Because ethanol contain less energy per unit volume than pure gasoline does.

      The energy of ethanol relative to gasoline:

      A. 76,000 = BTU of energy in a gallon of ethanol
      B. 116,090 = BTU of energy in a gallon of gasoline
      C. .655 = 2/3 = GGE of energy in a gallon of ethanol. A / B. (GGE =energy in a gal. of gas)

      D. 1.53 = Gallons of ethanol with the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline. D = B / A.

      So, I’m not sure what your objection is.

  12. Stephen
    January 3, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Also don’t forget you can still buy ETHANOL FREE GAS.

    There is a app for Apple I phone users. Search for Ethanol Free. Note not all the sites have the ethanol free. But some do. I currently hit a Citgo Station for 90 octane ethanol Free for my 2002 Trans Am that started to develop a miss (like it had water in the systmem). This was a occasional use car. Since I hav put 3 tanks of Ethanol Free in the car, the misses have gone away.

    The web site is https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ethanol-free-gas-finder/id487998473?mt=8

    http://pure-gasoline.com/

  13. scott d
    January 3, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Very interesting article, we have a rough time in New York State finding any “real” gas. I’ve had concerns over running “corn juice” in my newer Hemi, and mileage is dismal to begin with. My comment is after reading most all the posts, I’m wondering if this is sponsored by Sta-bil ?? I’ve researched a lot on this, and found a product called PRI-G ( or PRI-D for DIESELS!) that will stabilize fuel for up to five years! Plus all the benefits of retarding separation issues, rubber rot, and moisture displacement. I have no issues with Sta-bil products, used them for years, but the old saying holds true “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”… pricing is comparable between both products, and I feel it’s money well spent to preserve my motor. Big business and Government is always going to look out for itself, not the consumer, we’re just pockets to be picked clean… and the sheeple we’ve become make it like taking candy from babies…

    • January 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Hi Scott,

      I only mentioned Sta-Bil because I have had good experiences using it – but PRI-G may be just as good. The only reason I didn’t mention it by name is that I don’t have any personal experience with it, and my rule is to never recommend anything I haven’t personally used and had good results using.

      Bottom line, use whichever product works best (or which works just as well but costs less).

  14. Kevin McCune
    January 1, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    No.No!how stupid do they think we are? I used to look for 10
    % alcohol blend,thought I was helping the enviroment,thought I was helping the farmers and using up a resource that the rats were eating up didnt realize it was a giveaway to the mega farms.My Dakota runs very well on 90/10 better then on straight gas,but the mileage sure suffers.
    Alcohol works in Brazil,because of the feedstocks(sugarcane, etc) but its just not appropiate in the US.There are things we could do here,like converting our coal into dimethyl ether(I beieve it is) its a lot cheaper then anything you can get from the middle east and makes use of an abundant resource(coal) coal we never be clean,but its ours and lets use it.
    Didnt think I would ever say this,but bring back the import tariffs and bring home manufacturing to the US,we need more exports rather then just more people coming over to lower our standard of living.I CANNOT BELIEVE WE ARE STILL GIVING OUR COUNTRY AWAY!kevin

    • Eightsouthman
      January 2, 2013 at 5:36 am

      Quite obviously they think you’re pretty damned stupid, along with the rest of your constituents. Does that make you mad? It should. Why would Feinstein submit an amendment(thought I was gonna say a new gun ban bill?)to the NDAA that fairly much does away with any Constitutional rights you might have thought left after the original NDAA bill? It’s because she thinks not only that we’re all stupid but we have no power to do anything about it and she and her kind will never have to live under its rule. I suspect she’s right. Too bad the American public is nothing more than sheeple, stupid(it hurts me to say this), simple, law obeying, barely whining, dolts. My generation used to take to the streets and oppose this sort of thing. Then we got fat and old and thought we’d done a good job. What we didn’t understand is it takes never ending vigilance to keep your rights. And now I stand with the young who don’t want to lie down and take it. Good for them. May they retain the fire within.

    • Eightsouthman
      January 2, 2013 at 5:46 am

      Oh, Kevin, you’re not wrong in wantin got bring back manufacturing nor back import tariffs. I’m not sure we’d need import tariffs if we had no NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT or other trade”agreements” that were nothing more or less than way to keep the top (way below 1%)rolling in dough. Once they realized they could legislate themselve unlimited money they certainly weren’t going to Not take it, They had GHWB on board who passed it along to Clinton and then to Georgie and then to Obamer. Think it’s all not the same game? I have more faith in you than that. Now just get a fire and go for it.

  15. Tor Munkov
    January 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    List of 6293 stations with E0 no-ethanol gas by state/province.
    http://pure-gas.org/

    238 Pure Gas Stations in Virginia
    http://pure-gas.org/index.jsp?stateprov=VA

  16. Tre Deuce
    January 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Speaking of ‘Old Gas’ How about this old Muscle(455″) for a few dollars, plus restoration. http://medford.craigslist.org/cto/3455920268.html

    • January 1, 2013 at 11:42 am

      That appears to be a deal!

      Personally, I always preferred the Buick/Pontiac intermediates to the Chevys. A bit more ornate, a bit more detailed. Back in the days when there was meaningful difference between a Buick and a Pontiac and a Chevy!

      • Tre Deuce
        January 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

        The 68′-70′ Buick’s had a stylized fifties look, and in a sense, they were a modern retro of the time.

        My Mother’s twin sister bought a new 68′ and it was quite the attractive car with its yellow paint, black vinyl roof, and Buick styled steel wheels. Wonder where it is now?

        Recently when I was in East Texas, I picked up a 67′ Buick ‘Special’ coupe, still powered by an odd-fire V-6 with a ‘three on the tree’. A 70′ Buick 455″ and 4-speed, and disc brake conversion, came with the package. New repair panels and windshield arrived at the shop this week. Should be a pretty unique ride when finished.

        What is on your 2013 project list, Eric?

        • January 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm

          “What is on your 2013 project list, Eric?”

          Where to start?

          I might put a hotter cam in the Trans-Am. What was quick in ’99 (when I built the 455 that’s in there now) isn’t all that hot now. It currently has the computer-optimized version of the original 335 hp RA III cam. Fairly mild, very streetable. I could probably get close to 400 honest hp with something a bit more aggressive, without killing its streetability. As you probably know, to get much more than 400 honest hp out of something like a stock-block/heads old Pontiac usually means giving up streetability. That’s fine for a bracket racer, but I like to drive my car on the street!

          Truthfully, I ought to leave it alone and just save up money for a proper repaint. Mechanically, the car is near 100 percent. The body/paint still looks ok for an almost 40-year-old car, but it could use a cosmetic refresh.

          I’m working on our “guesthouse – a two story (main plus loft) unfinished building – which will be used to house the bikes when it’s done. The first level will be a display area for my restored antique bikes and the one really nice new one. This will be a cool hang-out place and also free up some much-needed garage space.

          Then I can consider another car!

          • Eightsouthman
            January 2, 2013 at 2:15 am

            You could wrap that 455 up and save it. Install any number of small block Chevy’s to get well over 400, even 500 HP and be streetable. They ain’t cheap though. It would handle better no doubt. An old style 400 small block punched out and stroked to well over 400 CI can be mighty streetable and raunchy to boot. I don’t have to tell you about the newer small blocks and their great heads and potentials though. Face it. An SBC with a hot profile just idling will not only get lots of looks but you’ll be grinnin’ every time you stick your foot in it. And yes, nobody will mistake it for a 455. I know, I know, just sayin’.

            • January 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

              Heresy!

              I could never bring myself to do that.

              A big part of the car’s appeal – to me – is that it’s not like modern cars. Put a powerful SBC in it – and it becomes like every other car with a powerful SBC in it. To me, quickness is not everything.

              The SBC is a brilliant design. I admire and respect it – and I have no problem with others who choose to put one in whatever.

              But I enjoy summoning to life the sound and feel (and torque) of an engine that isn’t yet another SBC. Something different – an engine you don’t see (or hear) every day. (This is also why I love old two-stroke triple Kaws. Nothing else sounds like that.)

              True story: I was at a car show with the TA and got to talking with a high school kid, I guess about 16 or so. He was google-eyed when I explained that “455” meant 7.4 liters – almost as many cubes as a current Viper V-10. You and I and others who are old enough have personal memories of a time when there was a plenitude of other-than-SBC engines out there. Those days are long gone. Being able to see/hear an engine that hasn’t been produced in going on 40 years is an intangible cool thing that may not obviate all the rational reasons to “go SBC” – but that’s not necessarily the point.

              The best analogy I can come up with is a WWII-era battleship vs. a modern missile frigate. The frigate is superior in every way as a fighting ship – but it just doesn’t summon the awe of seeing a 60,000 ton Iowa cleaving the seas, those 16 inch turrets preparing to fire a broadside of steel 20 miles over the horizon….

          • Tre Deuce
            January 2, 2013 at 2:49 am

            A favorite car, when sorted to near 100%, is very rewarding.

            My self, I would just make that engine compartment look new.

            A fun space to share your interests/hobby can be a source of many good times.

            I actually can’t figure how you have the time to do any projects, Eric.

          • Eightsouthman
            January 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm

            eric, I was yanking your chain. I know you’re a purist. I can appreciate that too. The old 455 HD’s were monsters, tons of torque from idle on and the ability to rev too. While we can no longer use 11.5-1 compression, 10-1 is not uncommon and will operate fine on premium. Cam design is so much better than it was years ago I think your engine would probably gain a huge amount with just that mod. It’s no longer expensive, and when I say expensive, I’m only talking 50% more for a special grind compared to buying one off the shelf.

            • January 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm

              Yup!

              One of the main issues with the classic Pontiac V-8 (as you know – but for the benefit of those who may not) is that compression ratio was to a great extent determined by the heads used (and chamber volume). My “6X” heads, for example, yield an appx. 7.6:1 CR (yes, you read that right!) I had a set of “48” heads from a RA III 400; these come close to 11.0:1 – but it’s very hard to run that high a CR in one of these engines on pump gas, even today’s higher-octane stuff. Most Pontiac builders I know recommend no more than 9.5:1 or so for a street engine using the factory cast iron heads. You can probably get away with more using the aftermarket (Edelbrock, etc.) alloy heads, which are functionally superior in every respect.

          • BrentP
            January 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

            On engine choice we can thank the bankers, the regulators, and the business school graduates for that.

            The bankers who took our wealth so we as a people can’t afford the vast array of choices, the regulators who take free market choice away, and the business school graduates who don’t understand product but think they can hang different badges on things to make them different.

        • Kevin McCune
          January 1, 2013 at 4:23 pm

          There was something “Beau James” about those old Buicks and such,for some reason the Chevelles(excuse my spelling) just didnt match it,they were sweet cars(the chevys) but it was nice to have something the same but different-Kevin

  17. Tre Deuce
    January 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I propose a contest…Name the year, make, and model, of that half of a gas tank.

    Great article and some very good comments.

    And, yes, keep any oil out of a modern engine and its exhaust system.

    And, old ‘in tank’ fuel filter socks, are susceptible to melting with alcohol amended fuels.

  18. Scott
    December 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Good tip on the Stabil Blue; I used it every other time I pump gas and have noticed quality difference when I do so. It’s not real cheap but is worth it for the peace of mind; especially here in the very wet winter clime of the Pacific N.W.

  19. December 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    As I think I mentioned then, for real off the grid use, adapt it to use a gasifier that can burn locally foraged fuel. A purist would say, use a steam engine or a Stirling engine, but that would take a lot more fabrication from scratch.

  20. Kevin McCune
    December 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Do not burn oil adulterated fuel in a modern auto ever! its alright to consume it in an old wheezy clunker without a converter.

    Always run your power equipment dry of gasoline; you listed some good ways to do that. I’ve done this for years and never had any problem on the restart on the older engines,modern gaskets do not dry out.

    If I ever get a backup generator,it will be propane powered or a solar powered minimal backup system,thus avoiding most fuel storage woes.

    As for corn for cows,No! grassfed much better; cows weren’t designed by the Good Lord to eat corn,I don’t even waste the garden space growing corn generally(much prefer to support the local farmers market for they’re reasonably priced and delicious “Peaches and cream,” “Hollaway” or” Silver queen” corn (I try not to put anything in my mouth made in China)

    Kevin

    • December 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Amen, Kevin –

      I gave Bee the same advice.

      And on the generator: A few months back I wrote about converting to dual (or multi) use. Mine can run on natural gas, propane or gasoline. Good to have options!

      • December 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm

        Drat. This comment was meant to be a reply here.

      • January 1, 2013 at 12:21 am

        Great suggestion on the dual fuel conversion on the generator. Another suggestion that I might make is that if you are a serious do it yourself tinkerer would be to get yourself a welder-generator combo. (mine’s a Lincoln Weldanpower). If you know how to weld and like to build or fix things it will probably never sit long enough to gum up very much. If you don’t know how to weld take a class. It’s worth it.

        • January 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

          Thanks, Moto!

          And, neat idea on the welder-generator combo… gonna have to look into that.

          • Eightsouthman
            January 2, 2013 at 12:57 am

            Propane is a forever fuel and so are engines that run on them. The new welder/generators are great, no matter if they’re red or blue(Miller). I am a dyed in the wool propane guy because the fuel lasts forever as does the engine and having a 250 gallon tank with a wet line for filling anything you want is a great thing. I can run my grill, generator, tractor(’68 J.D. 4020)for a long time on one tank($2.25/gal. this year). No worry about leaking carb into oil pan, no gumming up and no fuel going bad. What’s not to like? I understand propane goes faster than gas but 200 gallons(80%)is nothing to sneeze at and that’s just my small tank.

            • January 2, 2013 at 11:51 am

              Agreed, Eight –

              That’s exactly why I converted my gennie to be capable of operating on both propane and CNG – as well as gas!

              The plan is to get that 250 gallon tank, too…

  21. Bee
    December 31, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Eric,

    I store gas with 2 stroke oil & Stabil for summer use in my lawn equipment. In late fall I have left over gas/oil mixture left over. Less than 1 gallon left over. Could I put that in my car to use it up? Would the 2 stroke oil mess up my fuel injectors?

    Thanks,

    • December 31, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Hi Bee,

      I would never – ever – use gas mixed with two-stroke oil in any modern emissions-controlled car. You’d very likely foul the 02 sensors and quite possibly destroy the catalytic converter(s). This could cost you hundreds – possibly thousands (some OE cats cost $400 a piece and many new cars have several cats) of dollars. You’d be paying for the repairs yourself, too – because using two-stroke oil in any amount would absolutely void any new car’s warranty coverage.

      Never, ever do this!

      • Ed
        January 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm

        In 1/2/13 Providence Journal, Car Talk hosts Tom & Ray Magliozzi say it is OK to mix oil & gas mixtures with your cars fuel tank. I also would never put this in a $ 40,000 vehicle gas tank.

        • January 2, 2013 at 5:07 pm

          If they say that, they should expect to get sued – when someone follows their advice, has a problem – and discovers their warranty coverage is void.

    • BrentP
      December 31, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      As Eric points out the two-stroke oil is bad for the modern car. I mix it with fresh fuel and burn it my old lawn mower. I burns a little smokey but as far as I can tell does no harm and shouldn’t.

      • Eightsouthman
        January 2, 2013 at 12:25 am

        Here’s the deal. Most two-stroke oil is 50.1, not much oil and Amsoil is twice that ratio. I have used countless gallons(20 or more at a time)two stroke and throw it in the tank with that much or more reg gas and no problems. Yes I understand there could be but there never has been for me. I wouldn’t hesitate to put two gallons of two stroke fuel in a Porsche with a close to full tank. Think about your ratios here. 2 gallons reg gas and 2 gallons 50 to one=100 to one, 2 more gallons reg gas=200 to one, etc. You’ll never even smell it or know it’s been put in there. I’ve even run 20 gallons two cycle in an almost empty pickup, so long cataclysmic converter, no more grass fires when you stop. Try it, you’ll like it.

        • BrentP
          January 2, 2013 at 6:40 am

          I know it is 50:1. I’m not going to ruin sensors and such with it or even risk it. I might burn it in my ’73, which of course has nothing to ruin.

          • dom
            January 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm

            I do the same. Not worth cooking the cat.

  22. December 31, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Oh, I almost forgot about ethanol’s good points…

    In the interest of fairness, these must be mentioned:

    Ethanol has goosed the octane rating of fuel – which in turn has allowed the car companies to build mass-market engines with high-compression engines, which are both more powerful as well as more efficient.

    In the interest of fairness, we should mention that this feature means that cars optimised for alcohol based fuel (all the way up to pure ethanol or methanol) can get roughly the same mileage per gallon as petrol optimised ones, and even better mileage for weight of fuel. The only poorer mileage comes from using alcohol based fuel in petrol optimised cars, or petrol in alcohol optimised cars. But the newer cars may not be fully optimised, so they can still run acceptably with real petrol. I think one of the other comments touched on this.

  23. Douglas
    December 31, 2012 at 5:44 am

    IF the Otto-cycle engines were optimized for ethanol and/or ethanol/gasoline blends, that’d be one thing. Like Eric and other posters mentioned, different compression ratio, valve timing and profile, stainless steel fuel lines and tanks, ethanol-resistant hoses and gaskets. But that’s in the realm of engineering. Running on “corn likker” is NOT a new technology. The old Model T Fords with their low compression and “loose” (by modern standards) manufacturing tolerances could run on gasoline, ethanol, methanol, or kerosene, or mixtures thereof. An experienced driver learned to adjust his spark plug advancement (manual) IAW the fuel in operation of his “Flivver”. There is a REASON, like with the early Electrics or the Stanley Steamers, why alternatives in motor vehicle propulsion and fuels were largely abandoned. Cost (usually the deciding factor), reliability (gasoline-powered cars became simpler and lighter than comparable electrics and steamers), and versatility.
    Also, ethanol fuel production doesn’t survive w/o Government subsidies. It’s about winning votes in the Corn Belt, which the Republicunts are ahead of the Jackasses in that game. Also, Agribusiness conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland have the Federal Government in their pocket for the ethanol boondoggle.
    I have no objection to free market solutions to using ethanol fuels. I have a paperback from the early 80’s that takes the “Mother Earth News” approach (simple down-home methods of alcohol production from locally-available feedstocks). I suspect that any successful local initiatives that didn’t fatten the profits of ADM and line the politician’s pockets would soon warrant attention from the ATF, the FBI, and other Government alphabet soup that exists to perpetuate the corrupt system.

    • December 31, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Ah… ethanol fuel production can survive without government subsidies (or their near equivalent, mandates), in times and places with different conditions to today’s U.S.A. It’s close to that in Brazil now, though I think they do have a small subsidy. Even in the U.S.A., or in Australia where I am, it would make sense on a small scale without subsidies for people who went off grid, provided they only used it for personal transportation and didn’t use it to power farm equipment (which would make for a wasteful cycling of resources in their home-based economy, that they could improve by running that off gasifiers burning crop waste).

      • BrentP
        December 31, 2012 at 6:08 pm

        Corn ethanol is not profitable without the artificial market conditions. It’s like spending $2000 on diesel fuel to produce 1oz of gold. It is simply not a profitable venture. It takes more mineral aka fossil fuel in both dollars and energy than what is created in ethanol. When there are mandates and/or subsidies the profit is there, in the real world there isn’t. This is why statists say ‘the free market fails’. It’s when whatever they think is best can’t make a profit.

        In Brazil ethanol is made from sugar cane. This is profitable process to make ethanol. Part of the sugar cane plant provides the fuel to make ethanol from the rest of the plant. The solar energy is effectively put into a usable form without consuming other forms of energy in the process.

        Ethanol is all in how it is done. Which is why corn ethanol wouldn’t be an effective fuel in a free market.

        • Eightsouthman
          January 1, 2013 at 11:07 pm

          Everything Brent said is correct. From an ex-NASDA(USDA off-shoot) employee. Also, many other plants including hemp are fine for making ethanol and doing it profitably. Think what the bread basket of this country could produce if hemp were legal….and that’s just why it isn’t. Oil companies as well as chemical companies don’t want any competition. Farming cotton is much better…..says Monsanto who has the only chemical that’s used to kill weeds, RoundUp. Now all cottonseed is RoundUp ready. Billons of dollars of profit and polluting the earth like nobody’s business.

  24. Rich
    December 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the tips Eric, especially about the Sta-Bil. I’m in Florida and have an emergency generator that I keep full of gas (if you need to use it, gas may not be available. I also keep two 5-gallon cans). Perhaps the best thing to do is after a test run I should just shut off the gas valve and let it starve. Any suggestions about generators?

    • December 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      Hi Rich,

      np!

      On the generator… I have one, too (been using it a lot recently; we had a major ice storm last week and lost grid power for two days) and here’s my procedure:

      * Fresh fuel every six months – even if treated. Drain tank, run the old fuel in something else (like lawnmower).
      * Treat fresh fuel with Sta-Bil, run gennie once a month for 10 minutes – and let it die “naturally” by turning fuel valve to “off.” Top off tank with fresh/treated fuel. Never leave gennie for extended period with partially full tank.
      * Change oil once a year,irrespective of hours in service.

      This may be a bit overly compulsive, but when you live in a rural area prone to frequent (and often long-term) grid power outtages, the last thing you want to deal with is a gennie that won’t start when you need it to!

      • Rich
        December 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm

        Thanks Eric! I’m going to print that out and keep it available. And it’s not overly compulsive at all. The generator was not cheap, and when we get a storm down here, you’re not likely to be able to get another one in a hurry.

      • mikehell
        December 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm

        Eric, can you remind me what model of generator you have? thanks, m

        • December 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm

          Mine’s a Briggs&Stratton 5,500 watts continuous -

          • mikehell
            December 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

            Thanks!

  25. Tinsley Grey Sammons
    December 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Even at an alleged 300 gallons per acre I question the sense of ethanol. I’d rather have an acre of food*or forest . . . or a pond.

    Planet earth desperately needs a steady and dramatic reduction in the naked ape population. The planet is infested with the ugly things.

    tgsam

    *There are many crops that are much more nutritious than corn.

    • December 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      I’d amend that to Clothed Clovers!

      Reminds me of a refrain from a ’90s song I can’t recall the title of:

      “… Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding… The cretins cloning and feeding…”

      It’s absolutely true. And we have government to thank for it.

      Huxley and others wrote of dystopic futures engineered for the Herd Animal sort of man. To be ruled over by a few Shepherds.

      • Tor Munkov
        December 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        Harvey Danger – Flagpole Sitta

        I’m not sick, but I’m not well
        and I’m so hot ’cause I’m in hell

        Been around the world and found
        That only stupid people are breeding
        The cretins cloning and feeding
        And I don’t even own a TV

        • Eightsouthman
          January 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm

          The ignorant have always been the populators of the planet. Several years ago there was an outcry in Mexico because the US corn crop was being used for alcohol and there weren’t enough imports to feed that country. This could easily play out in this country too. It takes a gallon of diesel to make one gallon of ethanol. So why do it? Big subsidy, big ag. The REAL corn farmers hate the ag corps. that farm for the govt.

      • December 31, 2012 at 8:06 am

        One of those others was Cyril Kornbluth, who died young as far back as the 1950s (and so, must have spotted the trend by then). You should read some of his stuff.

        • liberranter
          January 2, 2013 at 5:22 am

          I remember reading The Marching Morons many years ago. A good story!

    • Ed
      December 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      “Planet earth desperately needs a steady and dramatic reduction in the naked ape population. The planet is infested with the ugly things.”

      I didn’t think you could saddle that hobbyhorse in this thread, but maybe I underestimated the strength of your delusion. Sure, pal. There are too many of us and we’re all going to die.

      BTW, are you part of the “infestation of the ugly things”? Why on earth do you keep spouting this leftist garbage here?

    • Nobody
      January 2, 2013 at 3:29 am

      You’ve got all that right!

  26. mithrandir
    December 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Too bad they do not sell both side by side. 100% gas next to 90% (soon to be 85%) gas, priced accordingly.

    I assume it is due to mandate that the “newer” fuel is pushed to as many people as possible. I would think that there would be many people choosing to use 100% gas when feasible.

    • mikehell
      December 30, 2012 at 12:40 am

      I suspect that there are financial penalties to vendors who buy 100%, probably in the form of higher taxes or some such nonsense so that his mark-up has to be higher. Here in Florida I only see 100% where there’s lots of people buying for outboard engines.

      And thanks for the tip about running the marine-grade Stabil, Eric. I hadn’t even considered running it instead of the normal grade. Btw, a mechanic recently told me that a dry chainsaw is nearly as bad as one that’s had 90% sit in it. Why would that be? Dried-up rubber bits?

      • BrentP
        December 30, 2012 at 1:31 am

        Check your chainsaw’s manual. Mine says to empty the tank and then run the saw until it is out of fuel.

      • Olaf Koenders
        December 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

        I’ve had to replace all the o-rings and seals in my CBR1000 carbies after having stored it dry for about a year. Probably because they were older 1995 vintage (or earlier) seals originally. Hopefully they’ll last longer this time.. :/

        • December 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

          Yup –

          I did the same with all my bikes except the “new” (2003) one….

      • December 30, 2012 at 11:35 am

        You bet, Mike!

        On the chainsaw: Well, they are two-strokes – so no gas means no lubricating oil. But this shouldn’t be an issue if the engine’s not running. Internal parts should be protected by the light oil film from the last use. I use my saw (Stihl) so much that I usually leave it with a full tank of treated fuel prior after use rather than drain it. But I’ll check the manual, see what it says and report back….

      • December 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

        Hey Mike,

        Ok, I found it:

        “The fuel tank should be emptied. Run the engine until the fuel system is dry.”

        -Stihl owner’s manual/recommendations for storage. See: http://www.stihlusa.com/faq/products/fuel/

        • mikehell
          December 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

          My saw’s manual says to empty the tank but clearly the best option is to use the saw more often to keep things lubed.

          • dom
            December 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm

            That’s what I do! Everything should be in running condition at all times. That is in the definition of tool in my book.

          • Eightsouthman
            January 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm

            A friend always does that but I don’t. I’m not sure why I don’t. I used to do it but always think I’ll be using my saw(Stihl, his too)soon so not draining it will be better. I should know better. Back when my saw was a couple years old they ran a load of alcohol fuel in on me. They did this going way back in the most unusual place in Texas. I always used Chevron with Techron(blue gas) and things were fine. One day I was coming back in from a big job and filled my welder with gas and then my other portable tanks. I realized as I was finishing that the gas had alcohol in it(smelled it and then looked at it, not blue)so I made a mental not to use it all up quickly, generally not a problem. I tried to separate my good gas from new stuff but I always had so much gas in store I got it mixed up. I was cutting wood right after that and my saw started to do funny things. It finally started revving really high and I was wondering what the problem was when it just revved way up and quit, out of gas, right?, no, plenty gas in the tank…..so I pulled the pickup, which was a rubber component, not like the hard plastic replacement when I had my engine rebuilt. The orginal component was gummy and had sucked shut(the rubber had degraded and just gave up its ability to stay round), leaning the engine that was virtually new and ruining it. I was so pissed, not at just the fuel seller(still, Techron, Chevron gas advertised)but at myself for not checking the gas I was using. Now it doesn’t matter. There is no real gasoline in the entire country, maybe not in the state. Screw me again. I had called Stabil about my boat and they said there was nothing they made to address two-stroke gas as far as alchohol was concerned and left me hanging in the wind. I told them they were doing a disservice to everyone not making anything compatible with two-cycle gas. They acted as if I were speaking Swahili. Then I had big problems with my big Merc, the entire fuel system except for the tank, fuel lines, fuel pump and carbs. Just screw ‘em.

        • BrentP
          January 2, 2013 at 6:31 am

          I checked the manual, it also says to remove the spark plug and put a little 2stroke oil in. mine saw is an Echo. Some winters I drain, some winters I just make sure to run it every 30 days even if I don’t use it. Both ways of doing things have worked out so far.

      • December 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

        If you know you’re not going to be able to run whatever it is for six months or more, it’s probably a good idea to store it dry – with no fuel in the system. Even though Sta-Bil and other fuel stabilizer claim that their products can prevent fuel from degrading (and your machine from being gunked up as a result) for as long as a year when properly dosed, draining the tank/carbs/lines is arguably one of those better-safe-than-sorry things. There’s no harm done by doing it …

        Ah… the way I heard it, when people were laying up their cars in the U.K. for the duration of the Second World War, that was a bad idea. Rather, as well as putting them up on blocks (to stop the tyres deforming under a steady weight) under cover, they left a little fuel in the tanks to keep them sweet and stop things like fuel lines splitting or separating (by analogy to leaving a little fresh water in the bottom of a boat laid up over winter, where it stops the wood from shrinking; that’s also called “keeping it sweet”), then they ran them on idle every few months to keep the batteries from deteriorating. (I once read a very funny article from Punch that said that even that would have failed over the years on every other car but the author’s antique, because they all had rubber parts that would have rotted while his didn’t.) Military engines were often laid up packed in sorbolene, much as guns were. Maybe modern materials don’t have the same volatiles in them that they would lose if they weren’t kept sweet like that, but suppose someone just happens to have a machine that’s still vulnerable to that. That mechanic’s advice may relate to this, particularly if he learned around older equipment that was vulnerable to it.

    • December 30, 2012 at 11:37 am

      It depends where you are. In my area (SW Va.) there is a station in town that does sell “regular” (100 percent gas) and “unleaded” (E10) side by side. The real gas costs about 15 cents more per gallon.

      • mithrandir
        December 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

        I think PA is the closest I am to 100% gasoline.

        15¢ more per gallon is worth it in my opinion. Theoretically that should be about 10% more mpg for less than 10% increase in cost.

        • December 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm

          It’s worth it to me chiefly for the decreased likelihood of alcohol-related problems in occasional use equipment such as riding mowers and so on. Also, older (pre 1990s) vehicles that were built with components not meant to deal with alcohol-laced fuels.

          Also, with regard to older vehicles – especially older air-cooled bikes: E10 amounts to a lean mixture (unless the bike’s carbs have been re-jetted) and running a leaner A/F ratio means the engine will run hotter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *